Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Goodbye Winter, my dear friend!

I've been meaning to write this post all month, but things have been really crazy since I ended up in the hospital, and when I came home from the hospital I wanted to document all about what had happened, so this post got pushed to the back burner.

As crazy as it sounds to most people, I absolutely hate the month of March! I hate the weather, and I'm always sad when the seasons change from winter to spring. Most people are overjoyed when March hits and the temperatures start to warm up, but I'm always sad to see winter go because I know it will be nine whole months until winter rolls around again! I love snow and I love cold weather!

Although I don't hate spring, it's definitely my least favorite season! The reason I hate the weather in March is because I don't like temperatures in the 40's and 50's. I either want cold weather or hot weather, none of this "middle of the road" business! I start enjoying the weather again around the end of April when the temperatures are warm enough so that I can sit outside in the sun. (I absolutely love sitting in the sun because it feels so good to feel the warm sun on me! Especially since I spend about six months of the year being perpetually cold!)

When March 1 rolled around a few weeks ago I was fully intending on writing my "Why I Hate March" post, but I ended up having to go to the hospital because I was sick with complications from infectious kidney stones. This resulted in a one week stay in the ICU at St. Anthony Hospital. This impromptu hospitalization didn't help March's reputation any, either!

Now winter is gone for another year. Too bad! Every winter I always excitedly wait for snow, but sadly we don't get much where I live, or not as much as I would like! We had several (about four or five) snowfalls this past winter, but none of them were that substantial. The biggest one we got was probably only 4 or 5 inches. Personally, I think it would be nice to save up all of the little snowfalls and just lump them all together in one big snowfall of 8 to 12 inches! I know that most people don't like snow, but I think it's so beautiful and I love it! (Except when I have to cancel my plans because of it!)

Here's a picture of my house after the snowfall I mentioned in my previous paragraph:
(At least it was enough snow to completely cover the grass!)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Surgery is finally set!

I met with my urologist last Friday and I was hoping to be able to schedule my surgery after the appointment, but we found out that the nurse that schedules the doctor's appointments wouldn't be available to talk to until Tuesday. This was frustrating because I'd have to wait another four days to schedule the surgery. I'm the kind of person who likes to plan things out well in advance, so I've kind of felt like I've been in limbo for the past month knowing that this surgery is something that I need to get done, but not knowing when it's going to be.

My mom was finally able to talk to the nurse this morning, and my surgery is finally set for April 5. The surgery to remove kidney stones is usually an outpatient procedure, but my urologist knows how tenuous my health is, so he's not taking any chances and is keeping me overnight in the hospital. (He always reserves a bed for me in the ICU, but sometimes I get kicked off the list if there are patients who need to be in the ICU more than I do. I guess I'm not the hospital's top priority!)

I'm so excited to finally have my surgery on the books. I can't wait to have these kidney stones removed so that I can get back to normal! I'm really sick of having a tube coming out of my back so that my left kidney can drain. It's uncomfortable and I don't like lying on it! It will also be nice to be able to get the picc line out of my arm. A picc line is kind of like an IV, except it's more long-term and you can keep it in your arm for six to eight weeks. (Instead of a needle going in to your vein like an IV does, a picc line is a thin catheter that goes through an artery almost all the way to your heart.) I'm ready to have it pulled out because it makes my arm hurt!

I'm hoping everything goes well so that I can come home the next day. I hope that I recover quickly because I've got big plans to go to The Cheesecake Factory for the first time the following Saturday!

Optimistically crossing my fingers!!

Monday, March 15, 2010

A few pros and cons of being in the hospital

I always try to find the positive things in every situation, even if the situation or experience isn't pleasant or fun. I'm just that kind of person and always have been. Here are a few of the pros and cons I noticed from my recent hospital stay:

I absolutely hate being in the hospital for various reasons, but most of all it's just hard to be alone in the hospital, especially since I'm unable to move or do anything physical for myself. I don't like being alone, but thankfully my mom/sister/friends spend a good majority of each day with me so I don't have to be alone for too long. However, my mom and sister go home at night, so they can get a good night's sleep so that they don't get too worn out. Being alone at night is tough for me since it's almost impossible to sleep through the night since people are constantly coming into my room to do different things. A lot of times I lie awake for hours, feeling extremely bored, just watching the clock for 8 am to roll around because my mom usually arrives at the hospital between 8 and 9 am. Being alone is the absolute worst!

Another downside to being in the hospital is when I have to deal with nurses or other hospital personnel who don't treat me with the dignity that each person should be treated with. I have to give props to St. Anthony's because almost everyone that cared for me was very nice. Sadly, it's the people that don't treat me well that always leave a lasting impression. In this last hospital stay there were only two people that I had problems with. The first person was a nurse who came in to help my nurse transfer me to a different bed. She was so rough, and I was asking her if we could do things a little differently than she wanted to so that I would be more comfortable. She didn't want to take the time to listen to what I had to say, and she said, "Let's just get this done." When she left and my mom came back in the room I was really upset and I said, "Thank God she's not my regular nurse!!" (I affectionately nicknamed this nurse "Nurse Ratchet.")

I was so bothered and insulted that Nurse Ratchet didn't want to take the time to listen to what I had to say. I know that she is a nurse and that I am just a patient, but I've lived as a quadriplegic for more than six years, and I know what makes me comfortable/uncomfortable. I know what works for me. I think it's really important for hospital personnel to listen to the patients and patient's family members/caregivers, especially when the caregivers have been taking care of their family member for an extended period of time. (Like how my mom has been taking care of me for the past six years. We have a system. We know what works for us.)

The other person that I had troubles with was a respiratory therapist. I don't really want to go into the whole story, but again, she wouldn't listen to me. Sometimes it seems like hospital personnel have the "I know what's best" mentality, and they won't listen to what the patient says. It's really frustrating when this happens! But like I said, just about everyone I came into contact with was very kind and willing to listen to my suggestions when it came to my personal care.

One of the pros to being in the hospital is being able to talk to the different people I come into contact with. I love talking with my different nurses, techs (nurses aides) and respiratory therapists, as well as the housekeeping and dietary staff that clean my room and bring my food trays. I'm a really chatty person, and I love telling anyone and everyone who will listen to me who I am, what's happened to me and what my life is like now. I enjoy finding out about their lives, too. Being able to talk with new people is definitely one pros of being in the hospital.

Another plus side of being in the hospital is that I always seem to learn a lot. When I was in nursing school before my accident I loved learning, so when I'm in the hospital I ask lots of questions so that I can learn about all of the aspects of my care.

I definitely try to make lemonade out of the lemons life has thrown my way. I know that happiness is a choice, but for me, I just couldn't live my life any other way. I know that I have the potential to be consumed with anger and bitterness, but that would make my life that much more difficult. Happiness is the only way for me!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Good for a laugh

I wanted to write about something lighthearted since my last post was so serious. I want to write about the little toilet that was in my hospital room. I've actually seen plenty of little toilets like this before, but a lot of my friends that came to visit me hadn't, and they got a real kick out of it.

There was a cabinet in my room with a sink and counter on top of it. This is what the cabinet looked like from the front with the doors shut:

If you opened the cabinet doors you would find a little toilet inside. I obviously can't get up and sit on the toilet, but the nurses would empty the pee that would collect in my drainage bag into the toilet. This is what the cabinet looked like with the doors open and the little toilet popped out:

The funniest thing about the toilet was when someone would accidentally lean up against the cabinet and their body weight would push the little flush button. It always startled them and gave me a good laugh. I guess it's the little things that you have to find humor in when you're in the hospital!

I guess I'm human after all

One of the things I like about blogging is that you're writing to nobody and everybody at the same time. This is nice when I feel like I'm writing about silly things and I don't want to come across like an idiot. It's also nice to be able to write about things that are a little more personal. Even though I know that a blog is out there for anyone and everyone to read, I occasionally write about things that discourage me or make me sad. This is going to be one of those posts.

Anyone who knows me knows how upbeat and positive I am. I'm definitely not living the kind of life I expected I'd be living, but I've adjusted well and I still find joy in just about everything that comes my way. However, this past week I've been down in the dumps, so to speak. I've felt really sad and discouraged about various things. This is so odd for me because feeling sad is such a foreign feeling and I haven't really known what to do with my feelings.

I should start by saying that I rarely talk about my feelings. I'm not sure why, but I just don't like talking about things that cause me sadness, especially if they are circumstances that I have no control over. As hard as I've tried, in the last week I've just felt so bombarded with feelings that leave me feeling sad.

On Tuesday night I was so distraught that all of the disappointment I've experienced in the past six years flooded out my eyes. I rarely cry, one reason is because once I start it's impossible for me to stop! I talked to my mom for quite a while, but I felt the desire to talk to someone else; someone more on my age level. The next day I emailed my dear friend Nathan and asked him if we could talk sometime. He came down that night with ice cream and all the fixings for ice cream sundaes. I told him some of my woes and it was just nice to have someone listen to my feelings without making me feel dumb for feeling the way I felt.

There are so many things that could cause me a lot of pain if I let them, but I just don't let myself go there because I know dwelling on things I can't/don't have will only bring me pain. Before my accident I didn't know everything that was in store for my life, but I always expected that I would be able to have the two things that I wanted most out of life; being a wife and a mother. When I started nursing school I was so passionate about being a nurse, so I added the title of nurse to the short list of things I wanted most in life. After my accident the things I wanted most no longer seemed attainable. I tried my best to put these things out of my mind so as to not let the disappointment of no longer having my dreams ruin my life. I knew that this disappointment had the potential to ruin my life if I let it turn me into a bitter, miserable person. I've done a really good job of not letting this happen, but that doesn't mean that I don't feel sad sometimes.

When I was in the hospital last week I really felt the cruel sting of irony. Six years ago I went from being the nurse to being the patient in one swift second when I broke my neck in a car accident. I'd wanted to be a nurse so badly, and it's at times like when I'm in the hospital that I really grieve for the loss of what I wanted but will never be able to have.

Another source of sadness is that I am not a wife or a mother. I wanted that so badly, and just like knowing I'd be a great nurse, I know that I would be a phenomenal wife and mother. I'm a great catch, but I know I never get a second look from guys when they see my physical handicaps. I'm really lonely in this way, and that makes me sad too.

When I was talking to my friend Nathan he said, "It's nice to know you're human, because I was starting to wonder." I know that everything I've been feeling does make me normal and human, but I don't want to be human in this respect! I much prefer being the way I usually am -- blissfully happy despite my disappointments and limitations. Anyway, I just wanted to write about some of the emotional lows that I felt this past week.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The blessings of friendship

When I was in the hospital last week I had so many visits from wonderful friends. When you're in the hospital it can get so lonely! Luckily, my mom spends all day with me in the hospital, and my younger sister Chandra comes in the evenings so that my mom can go home relatively early in the evening so that she can go home and take care of a few things, and most importantly get a good night's sleep. I'm so grateful for my mom and Chandra because the hospital stay would be miserable without my advocate (my mom) and someone to be there to help keep me company. I'm always grateful for visits from friends and loved ones. It helps cheer me up and make a very abnormal situation a little more normal.

Last week my friend Karma brought a beautiful bouquet of daisies to the hospital for me. They were dyed the most beautiful colors: bright pinks, yellows, greens, blues and purples. I love flowers, but sadly you aren't allowed to have real flowers in the ICU because they can spread bacteria. My daisies had to stay out on the nurse's desk, but I had a great view of them out my door. Everyone who walked by literally "stopped to smell the daisies," and I couldn't blame them for stopping to admire my flowers. The only thing that bothered me was when people would touch the actual flower, because that's bad for flowers, and I wanted my bouquet to stay as fresh as possible so that I could hopefully enjoy them when I went home.

When my mom left for home that day I had her take my flowers home where they would be safe! I also got some beautiful yellow chrysanthemums and a balloon from my friend Katherine. I received these flowers on the afternoon that I was leaving the hospital, so I took them home with me and I've been enjoying both bouquets ever since. Here are a few pictures of my beautiful daisies and chrysanthemums (although the pictures don't make them look near as pretty as they are in person):

My mom and I also had visitors from different women at our church. I enjoyed this a lot, and I know that my mom really enjoyed these visits as well because it helped break up the monotony of the day. I'm so glad that I have wonderful friends and family that I can call on when I need help -- it's a great feeling!.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Not again!!

Last Monday started out like an ordinary day. It was a new day, a new week and a new month. I was excited to get up in my recliner so that I could get to work on my computer. I had several emails to catch up on, and I also wanted to update my personal journal as well as make a new blog post. Once I got up in my recliner, however, I noticed a dull ache in my lower back on the left side. I wasn't sure what was causing the pain, but I thought maybe some of my clothing was too tight or something like that. The pain got worse and worse as the day progressed, and I didn't feel like doing much of anything, which is highly unusual for me because I like spending all day on my computer.

As the pain increased, I also began feeling like I couldn't draw a deep enough breath. I'm not able to breathe on my own, but I've been on a diaphragm breathing stimulator for the past three years, and this has enabled me to stay off of a mechanical ventilator. As the day progressed, I began feeling more and more sleepy, and I knew that I was starting to repeat myself and say things that didn't really make sense. My mom said that she thought she should take me to the emergency room, and I agreed. I hate going to the hospital, but I could tell that something was wrong with me, although I wasn't sure what it was. My mom started getting things together and she called my younger sister Chandra at work and asked her if she could come home a couple of hours early.

When Chandra arrived home about 30 minutes later I was all ready to go. It was about 3 pm, and my mom and sister Chandra took me to the emergency room at St. Anthony's Hospital and we got checked in. The emergency room was absolutely packed, especially with lots of people carrying around barf basins! I waited in the waiting room for more than three hours, and the infection that was festering inside my body started taking over. I was trying so hard to mentally stay with it, but then I got to a point where I was so sick that I just had to mentally give in to the infection. I kept asking the same questions over and over again. I wasn't aware that I was doing this because I couldn't remember if I'd actually asked the question, or if I'd just thought it in my head.

Here's another example of how downhill I was going. I was drinking a milkshake since it had been about nine hours since I'd eaten anything. I was able to suck the milkshake up through the straw, but then I would actually fall asleep before I could swallow it, and it would run out of my mouth onto my shirt. That's how sick I was, I couldn't even swallow my milkshake! My mom knew that I was having a definite change in mental status, so she went to the front desk and told the receptionist that I was starting to act the way that I've acted in the past when I've been septic. (That's when an infection gets into your bloodstream, and if you aren't treated quickly it can be a life or death situation.) When my vital signs were retaken it was clear just how much I had deteriorated in the three hours that I'd been waiting. It was clear that I was seriously sick and they got me in to the next available room.

By this time I was so delirious that I don't remember much of anything. My blood pressure had plummeted dangerously low, something like 50/30. I'm not sure when the doctors found out that a kidney stone was what was causing me to be so sick, but when I heard those two horrible words, "kidney stones," I knew that things were not good. A kidney stone had entered my left ureter, so my left kidney wasn't draining at all. Ever since I've been paralyzed (6+ years) I've had reoccurring problems with kidney stones since my kidneys don't drain as efficiently anymore since I can't stand up.

To help make this long story shorter, I'll just try to talk about the most relevant things that happened last Monday. When they found out that my left kidney wasn't draining, I had to have a procedure to drain the kidney. I'm not sure what time of night it was when they took me away to get this procedure done, but I was put on an operating table and I was turned onto my right side so that the doctor had access to my left kidney.

Because my blood pressure was so low it was too dangerous to use anesthesia, so I was put under conscious sedation. Conscious sedation is basically where you're given a little something to make you foggy and fuzzy, but you're not unconscious. I cannot express how badly the procedure hurt! The doctor put a nephrostomy tube in my back, and the best way to describe what was done is that they drilled through my back to get to my kidney. Then a tube was inserted into my kidney to drain everything out of it. Then they secured the tube in my kidney with a few sutures, and now I will have this drain in my back until after I have surgery in a few weeks.

Since I was conscious during the procedure, I felt everything! I can't put into words how painful this procedure was -- I've never been through anything more physically painful than this procedure. I kept saying "ow" and "that hurts" but all they would say to me is, "I know it hurts." I was so relieved when it was over!

I was still delirious after my procedure, and when I finally woke up I was in the ICU. I don't remember this, but my mom said that I kept calling her name over and over again. I didn't know I was calling her over and over again, but when I woke up I couldn't see her and I didn't know where she was. Actually, I woke up burning hot, horribly parched and very confused. I knew that I was at the hospital, but I didn't know where in the hospital and I didn't know how much time had passed, if it were night or day, etc.

When I was coherent enough to form logical thoughts and questions again, I couldn't believe that I was having more kidney stone related problems. I'd just been to my urologist three months previously, and he said that although I had a few small stones in each kidney, they hadn't gotten any bigger and no new stones had formed. So although I shouldn't have been surprised that I had more kidney stones, I actually was surprised. I remember thinking, "No, not again!!"

I was feeling better and more like myself on Tuesday morning and I started to ask, "When can I go home?" Sadly, it wasn't this easy and I resigned myself that I would have to be in the hospital for several days.

I didn't bounce back as quickly as I have in the past, and this was very frustrating. I was put on a ventilator because I wasn't getting enough air from just being on my diaphragm stimulator like I usually am. Every time I tried to get off of the ventilator and just use my diaphragm stimulator, I started feeling like I wasn't getting enough oxygen to my brain, and a horrible headache ensued. For the next four days I tried turning off the ventilator and tried breathing with my diaphragm stimulator, but every time I tried I just couldn't do it and this was so frustrating because I knew I had to be off of the ventilator permanently before I could even think about going home. I've gone through the same thing in the past, and it was no problem to get off the ventilator, so I didn't know what was different this time. Thankfully on Saturday afternoon I turned a corner and I was finally able to be off of the ventilator without feeling like I wasn't getting enough air. Finally!! (The reason it was so hard for me to get off of the ventilator was because the infection was so strong and my body had gotten so weak.)

On Monday morning when my pulmonologist made his rounds I told him that I was ready to go home and he actually agreed. Now I just needed to get all of my other doctors on board, which wasn't too difficult to do. The hospital is the absolute worst place a patient can be when they are trying to recover since there is such a high risk of acquiring a secondary infection because of all the germs in the hospital.

So here I am. It's Wednesday afternoon and I've been home for almost two days. I have to be on IV antibiotics for two more weeks to make sure the infection is completely gone. Once the infection is cleared up I will have surgery to remove all of the kidney stones from my kidneys. That surgery will take place in about two or three weeks. I'm really not looking forward to the thought of having another surgery and hospital stay, but at least the kidney stones will be taken care of. It's too bad that it's not a one step fix! Unfortunately, kidney stones and other urological related problems are going to be an inevitable recurring thing for me to deal with since I have a spinal cord injury.

This post kind of tells the story of what happened last week. In another post this week I'll write about some of my feelings about being in the hospital and what it's like to be a patient. I'm so glad to be feeling better and most importantly, I'm glad to be home!

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